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Welcome to Appetite for Discussion -- a Guns N' Roses fan forum!

Please feel free to look around the forum as a guest, I hope you will find something of interest. If you want to join the discussions or contribute in other ways then you need to become a member. We especially welcome anyone who wants to share documents for our archive or would be interested in translating or transcribing articles and interviews.

Registering is free and easy.


2012.10.07 - The Quietus - Punk Rock Guilt?: Duff McKagan's Favourite Albums

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2012.10.07 - The Quietus - Punk Rock Guilt?: Duff McKagan's Favourite Albums Empty 2012.10.07 - The Quietus - Punk Rock Guilt?: Duff McKagan's Favourite Albums

Post by Blackstar Thu Feb 17, 2022 3:05 pm

Punk Rock Guilt?: Duff McKagan's Favourite Albums

The Guns N' Roses/Neurotic Outsiders/Velvet Revolver man picks out his top 13 LPs

Dayal Patterson

Having toured the world and achieved remarkable success with Guns N’ Roses - arguably the biggest and almost certainly the best outfit in hard rock history – before co-forming the Neurotic Outsiders (featuring his hero, Sex Pistols’ guitarist Steve Jones) and later Velvet Revolver, one would suspect that Duff McKagan has very few boxes left to tick in his career bucket list. Indeed, with such a stellar reputation (his session work has seen him work with such diverse artists as Iggy Pop, Mark Lanegan, Macy Gray and The Manic Street Preachers) one might forgive the bass player and vocalist for taking it easy as he approaches his fifth decade.

Instead, he’s not only taken up writing, penning weekly financial and sports columns as well as his autobiography It's So Easy (And Other Lies), but gone back to his roots with his band Loaded, swapping bass for guitar and lead vocals and returning to the small, sweaty clubs he first encountered in the early eighties (as well as some rather larger venues on the forthcoming Alice Cooper UK tour). But then the Seattle native has always balanced his love for stadium rock bands with the grassroots mentality he picked up as a teenage punk rocker, a point that is aptly reflected here in his top 13 albums.

Iggy and the Stooges – Raw Power

I have seven older brothers and sisters so there was always a bunch of records around the house. One of my brothers had a record by The Sonics, a Seattle sixties garage rock band, and to a kid who was, like, eight years old, The Sonics really spoke. It was very trashy and you could almost imagine yourself playing those songs - there was a song called 'The Witch' that really spoke to a boy that age and captured his imagination. I was probably about 13 when I heard Raw Power and it reminded me of that, but had something else, it was a bit rattier. I played it over and over again.

I haven’t ever been able to write a song as cool as any on Raw Power but I did take that basic ethos; keep it raw and keep it real. Those formative years and the records I listened to then have influenced me to this day. We covered [the song 'Raw Power'] later on "The Spaghetti Incident?" [Guns N’ Roses’ 1993 cover album] , and in that era of my life – wow, I guess I’m speaking about my life in eras now – I was probably... well I had a lot of input in that record. I’m not saying I had the most influence, but I probably had more than my share. The UK Subs and the Stooges, I was really happy about some of the selections we made and it was really fun to do something like a Damned song. So we’ll move onto....

The Damned – Damned Damned Damned

The first Damned record is a classic. These were some of our influences and bands that never really got a wider appeal and should have. Rat Scabies was on that record and was like a rebirth of Keith Moon, Brian James’ guitar playing was second to none, suddenly punk rock had our own Eddie Van Halen - sort of [laughs]. Just a shredder. Then there was Captain Sensible and Dave Vanian... everyone was a unique character, not just personally but as a player. I don’t think anybody could have beaten the Damned at that point in their carer. It was short-lived but maybe it was too ferocious to last with that line-up.

After we did that record I was playing a gig in ‘94 with Steve Jones, we were playing the Viper Room every Monday night as the Neurotic Outsiders and Rat Scabies came to one of the gigs. Steve introduced us and Rat said, "thanks for covering that song, I got the biggest publishing cheque I ever got". But I didn’t know what to say, I was terrified of The Damned man, these are my heroes. I mean it was Rat Scabies, what the hell do you say to Rat Scabies?

Prince – 1999

I’d be hard pressed to choose from those early records, but 1999 was a big departure from the first three and that double album was a massive undertaking. Those records where you don’t know how the hell the writer did the thing are the ones that will always have a massive mystique and weight with me. Probably the casual fan of my bass playing or the rhythm section of Guns wouldn’t be able to pick up on it, but me and Steven really worked on this groove by playing along to Prince as well as Sly and the Family Stone. We would sit in the rehearsal room and crank the music on this ghetto blaster and just play along and emulate some of that stuff. It was ‘85 and no-one knew what was going to be next, there was a big question mark. Punk was sort of in its death throes, there was this – if you ask me – really bad metal that didn’t relate to anybody, then the rest of it was up to us, people who were our age 19, 20, 21, whatever and we knew it. So we tried to go a different route and that 1999 record was a big influence on me becoming a bass player.

Sly and the Family Stone - Greatest Hits

I’d just say Greatest Hits, if we’re making a list of albums to turn people on, a greatest hits will do fine. Some of that music I listened to when I was nine to thirteen did not stand the test of time, but Sly and the Family Stone is kind of ridiculous in how good it is. Songs, musicianship, just fucking weirdness, sound and ‘how the fuck’; again - as I was saying about 1999 – you’re just scratching your head, like, "how did this happen?" If you play in a band and you’re young and you haven’t listened to Sly and the Family Stone, then your band is gonna fucking suck [laughs]. Probably not a true statement, but to me it is. I grew up in the seventies so I’d hear these stories, like he didn’t turn up to his gig, he was four hours late to the gig... I mean they were huge but it was just willy nilly live.

I would say the influences on my bass playing was a really wide thing, I didn’t really decide I was going to be a bass player until I was 19, 20. I was playing drums, I was playing guitar, I was playing bass and when I finally took that big step and said, "okay, I’m going to be a bass player" and I kind of melded a load of things together. The band Magazine, that bass sound with the chorus on the bass... it took me some years to work out that effect, 'cos I didn’t know much about effects in the eighties, but the sound you hear with Guns is really derived from listening to that first Magazine record, combined with first Sly and the Family Stone and Prince, with a real punk rock ethic underlining the whole thing.

Black Flag – My War

It was a left turn within the punk rock scene, it was weird and sort of violent and real. It was in your face and as real as any rock band had been and that record got me through some shit. We all have a record that got us through a break-up or that you listened to when you’re 18 and you think everything’s going to hell and not going to last, and that record got me through that. Actually the first gig I ever did was opening for Black Flag when I was 14, but it was when Ron Reyes was the singer, so I’d followed them closely for a long time – well three years and three years is a long time when you’re 18. But that was the record that fortified it.

Refused - The Shape of Punk to Come

I didn’t come into that record until about two years after it was made - I think I was about 34 and my wife and I were having kids and I was going back to school. In the late nineties rock music was kind of awful and you really had to search, there were a few bands out there doing different stuff but it was kind of an awful time for rock music, so I think I chose the right time to go back to school and have kids. Anyway, it took me two years but someone finally switched me onto the record and it blew my mind. Then I found out the band had split up - I went to see The (International) Noise conspiracy but it wasn’t Refused, so I thought really I missed my chance to see that band ever. But I finally got to see the band a few weeks ago in Seattle. There are gigs you go to on your own, ‘cos it’s not a social event, you don’t want to talk to anybody you just want to go and do your thing and it was really one of those moments where the gig was better than the record. That gig fortified everything I love about that record, that’s probably a top five record for me. Actually that record influenced a lot of the first Velvet Revolver record, we would listen to that band a ton.

The Jimi Hendrix Experience – Axis: Bold As Love

You have to put Hendrix in there if we’re doing this properly. Why Axis I don’t know, but I remember I had a copy of that record without a cover as a kid so I made a cover for it. It was some religious record sleeve - there were all these new folk bands playing at churches in the early seventies - but there was no record in the sleeve and I fancied myself as a drawer so I took a magic marker and put the album title and drew my version of Hendrix playing the guitar. It was one of the earliest records I listened to – I’m from Seattle and everyone in Seattle has a Hendrix record or five. I thought I was being a little bit different going for Axis as a nine or ten year-old kid, 'cos it wasn’t one of the main records, it didn’t have any of the hits on it. It was kinda dark and twisted and cool. I think it stands the test of time musically.

The Rolling Stones – It's Only Rock 'n Roll

We have to put a Stones record in there too for good measure. The times I drove down to LA in ‘84 I probably listened to that song 75 times - probably a lot more actually - on my little ghetto blaster in my car. It was kind of the soundtrack to my life that year, again it was another record that got me through a big sea change in my life. There are lots of good Rolling Stones records but that one was given to me at the right time in my life.

Playing with them was a big thing of course and we were really built up way beyond what we wanted to be. I was just happy to be opening for The Rolling Stones in any way at all, but someone in the LA Times wrote it up and had a picture of us like we were going to be the next Rolling Stones. It was ‘88 or ’89, we were young guys and how do you handle that? Imagine that pressure, if you’re 24 years old you just want it to go away. And I was thinking, "I hope none of the guys from the Stones see this article saying we’re going to be the next Rolling Stones…"

The Beatles - Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band

What killer pop songs, just killer fucking pop songs. It’s all over the place and I remember looking at it as a kid, just looking at the cover, it’s like a cartoon and at third grade I would play that record again and again. 'Lovely Rita' is probably my favourite song. I remember I had a crush on this girl and at that age you don’t know what girls are about and this song had something to do with my crush on this girl. I don’t know how, but it did, so it brings back memories of a more innocent time in my life for sure. It’s so ingenious and a pure band effort where all the band were listening to each other. I know from reading about that record later that there were a lot of battles but I think the band were at its zenith in terms of allowing each other’s input.

Guns was also a band where everybody respected everybody else’s musical opinion - Appetite was a record that was a serious group effort. We didn’t have any away to record ourselves, we didn’t even have a PA, Axl would be singing lyrics into one of our ears while we were playing really loudly in this little room, so the only time we got to hear these songs properly was when we played live –in front of three people sometimes - 'cos there were monitors on stage. Then you’d realise that songs like 'Rocket Queen' were way too long and be shaving them. By Illusion we had a big rehearsal place with a PA and could record ourselves on cassette and hear what we were doing. And we had time, and if you don’t let time get away from you time can be a really great thing if you know how to manage it.

Queens Of The Stone Age – Rated R

I’d heard rumour of them making this record and the rumour behind it was they were getting all these people – like, "Rob Halford’s on the record, what the fuck?" That record came out and it was such a brave turn. It’s so good, it’s still in my truck that I drive around in, it hasn’t come out of the 6-CD changer since it came out back then. My daughters have learned to love that record, they’re like, "oh, put on the Queens album!" It was another group effort album where I think Josh had a vision and Nick and all those guys were all at their... not zenith, ‘cos Josh has done a bunch of stuff since then that was just as good, but that record did set them apart.

Aerosmith – Toys In The Attic

If you were an American kid, then Aerosmith was a huge influence. They were probably what T Rex was to the English fans - whether you were a punk or a metaller, anything, Aerosmith was cool. I’m choosing Toys In The Attic just because it’s a great entry level album for someone checking out Aerosmith. They did this tour a few years ago where they just played stuff from the early records and, fuck, the songs were good. And I just saw them again with my wife, Mike from Pearl jam and his wife, and it was great; there were mistakes and they jammed and there was no... you know, maybe they went through a time where they were playing too many ballads, but there was none of that and even the mistakes made it seem more real. I mean how do you write songs like that? Mike and I went backstage to meet Joe Perry and we’re still those young American kids we used to be when we meet the band. I mean, what do you say to Joe Perry? Those guys are classic, every guy has their own thing.

Ramones – Rocket To Russia

Rocket To Russia is a great record and that was kind of my entry point, my first experience with the Ramones - then I got to go back and discover the first two. Leave Home is great too. Fuck, you could just say the first Ramones record or any Ramones record but Rocket To Russia was my first introduction to Johnny Ramone’s guitar playing. We would read about the Ramones in Punk magazine and see these pictures of Johnny Ramone downstroking and I got to finally see them in like ‘79. That was a great year for me as I saw the Ramones and – and this will take us into the next record – The Clash.

The Clash – The Clash [US version]

I got that record from my brother-in-law for Christmas - we have this huge family and so we were picking names from a hat and whoever you got the name of you bought a present for. My brother-in-law was this cool fucking dude who listened to college radio and he got me that first Clash record and I got to see them later that year so I guess it was Christmas 1978. We had the US version, it was just called The Clash with the green cover – you knew that if you were American, 'cos we were like, "we cant get the real fucking English version" - I mean they had it on import, but it was so expensive.

I don’t know what my musical life would have been like if I didn’t get to see that gig. It was really exotic for that band to come and play Seattle. The whole Seattle community was there and it was probably only 200 people but it felt like everybody in the world was there. I remember there was this wooden barrier and this security guy in front of the pit who didn’t know how to deal with a punk rock audience, and he just decked this kid and broke his nose and The Clash just stopped the gig. And Paul Simonon or someone grabbed an axe and broke down the barrier! And I remember Joe Strummer saying, "there’s no difference between us and you guys, these barriers and shit are separating us", and it suddenly dawned on me. They were totally against the whole rock star thing, like there’s not us and there’s you, it was like we were all in this together.

I guess I’d be lying if I said in the nineties I didn’t have… not ‘punk rock guilt’ exactly, but there would be a lot of bands that came up, like Soundgarden and Pearl Jam, there were guys who were in the punk rock scene and this was what was next, and as a young dude you feel a little guilty when you’re suddenly selling millions of records. But no-one sold their soul or changed their fucking tune, this was what evolved out of punk rock. Looking back it was a natural progression. Guns was a mix of a lot of different input, punk rock, seventies rock, and it was about doing something different and maybe that’s what punk rock sounded like at that point, I don’t know (laughs). I mean Guns was as DIY as it got, we would hitchhike 1,200 miles to get to a gig but we just went to the next level in getting a major label deal, that was the big change. But I took that ethic with me that Strummer had said. I don’t know any different, I’m honoured to be playing gigs and I’ve always paid tribute to that way of thinking.

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